25 October 2005

First impressions

After three horrible days in Rafah any place seemes great, so even Gaza. In retrospect, I really don't remember how long it took before I realized where I was, but we are talking about days - not more than that. And by "where I was" I don't mean geographically. I mean into which kind of society I had come.

Coming to Gaza has turned my life upside down. Some might wonder if I am naive and simply stupid for even thinking of Gaza as The place to raise a family, and until now I'm not sure if I have any satisfying answer to that. Perhaps I was naive and stupid. By saying that the initiative was my husband's it really sounds as if I'm trying to blame him, and it wouldn't be the whole truth. Our family had reached a point where we needed a change. You know, some people move out from the city to the countryside, some climb mountains, some take a year off, some re-educate themselves. We moved to Gaza.

Being sensitive is a character of mine that I've always considered a blessing. The society and the people of Gaza are however anything else but sensitive. Some of the first impressions I had was how children are being mistreated here, and how children mistreat eachother. How donkeys are being beaten. How easily muslims throw trash on our precious Ard ur-Ribaat. How easily people lie and cheat. And how little they think to improve themselves.

I have given it a lot of thought on wether or not I should publish the above. I've come to the conclusion that I wouldn't do my ummah (community) any favour by being silent. Palestinians face many severe issues that need immediate attention and it is my opinion that you cannot solve a problem you don't recognize. This is of course a topic I'm sure I'll have many reasons to discuss further on this blog.

A palestinian friend of mine said the following;

"While it s true the occupation has played a large, if not exclusive, role in ripping apart our society and its family support network through imprisonments injuries humiliation etc., wich can have dire consquences for many years to come, but we still carry much of the burden - we should be better than this.

Of course poverty plays a big role too. There is an interesting article by the Gaza community mental health programme that I read that addresses this issue - that talks about how poverty (80%) confounded with stress and post traumatic disorders due to witnessing violent incidents (of which 95% of palestinans in Gaza experience) makes most people in Gaza very edgy, stressed out, and oftentimes violent towards their families, and animals, and schoolchildren.

We have to ask, as members of that society, and as muslims, where do we go from here? I feel we are facing a moral degredation in our society more dangerous than any political problem we will ever face, because it unravels the very underpinning of societal structure."

By now I've already spent close to four months in Gaza. There has been many struggles and I will share them with you here. However I have come to realize that the Gazans do love their Gaza. They even sometimes refer to it as "sweet Gaza". Many people live satisfying lives here. Even our lives has over the months developped a certain "sweetness" to it. One of the things that really has surprised me is that Gazans try to live normal lives inspite of the difficulties, they focus on the positive things rather than the negative. We've had sleepless nights beacuse of bombs being dropped at Gaza, but they still go to work in the morning.

For me and my children our stay in Gaza will of course be an incredible experience however difficult it may be at times. Learning their father's language and culture will be a great benefit for them in their lives God willing. What will happen to us after this "trial period" is yet to see.


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Judy said...

I think you are both very caring and very brave in describing what you find difficult and distressing in your experience of Gaza. It is hard when you are faced with some things from your own faith (but another culture) which are hard to take.

But clearly you aren't alone.

Your Palestinian friend shares your refusal to accept this is how things have to be, and that everything that is wrong can be blamed on someone else.

Writing about what you see and feel hopefully helps you feel less isolated in your viewpoint.

I hope it will help you make contact with more Gazans who feel the same way as you.

And you have the good wishes and affection of those of us, like me, who very much welcome your writing and look forward to reading more.

Laila said...

AA Iman-
Hang in my dear-I know how difficult it is from experience, but believe me, the experience will make you stronger, you just need patience and persistence (a lot of it!) but just knowing you are making a contribution to the society by being there alone, and by speaking your mind on the internet about your experiences should drive you to continue. Soon I'll be back and hopefully we can finally see each other and at least have some support...